A lot of people lean on makeup and grooming to give themselves a boost of self-zest. (I just made that term up, but I like it.) Me, I am not as adept at beauty and grooming as I am at clothes, at least in terms of my happiness and confidence and #goodenough life-feeling. Some people are really gifted with makeup and can ‘strobe’ and ‘contour’ and make themselves look like anything they want. I am not this person, which is why the only thing I have going for makeup is really bright lips and coral blush — which I’ve written about before.
But overall, I do have a sense of what I like and what’s doable and what makes me feel nice and somewhat presentable when I need to be. And it’s really basic and low-maintenance in what I would love to see as a ‘European’ way. But it’s really more from a lack of time and ability than anything else, so perhaps it is just ‘lazy.’
But for now, lazy is doable and ‘good enough’ and I will stick to it. I’m sure I could have better hair and makeup, but honestly, I’ve realized the limits of my photogenicness ages ago and the amount of makeup and time it would take to make me more palatable for Instagram is not worth sacrificing time better spent on writing, exploring, snuggling, loving or just reading a book.
My Secret to Good Skin Is…Pregnancy? In An Inadvertent Way?
One thing I am pretty keen on is skincare. The funny thing about skin, though, is that it sometimes feel like a big science experiment, which is both fun and not. Which is why lists of products have their limitations, because everyone is so different. It took me forever to find what works. But hopefully hearing a little bit about my particular beauty history and ‘story’ in general will help people who’ve been in similar situations find stuff that works for them.
These days I use easily available drugstore products, because I like accessibility and reasonable prices. But I was also forced to change my former spendier, fancier skin routine because of pregnancy freakouts. When I was pregnant, any bath and skin products with a strong fragrance completely repulsed me, so I switched to fragrance-free or very lightly scented everything — which generally meant adopting products with pared-down ingredient lists. These products generally also tend not to foam up, which I think is also a factor as well. But it worked, and suddenly, my skin chilled out.
So I kept up with the ‘non-foaming fewer ingredients’ approach even after having a baby, and things have been pretty good, skin-wise, since. Right now I use Neutrogena’s Deep Clean Cream Cleanser or Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. The Deep Clean cream cleanser has a slight menthol-y feel to it but not a strong scent — it feels refreshing to me. The Ultra Gentle one reminds me a lot of something like Cetaphil — it has a similar consistency and doesn’t foam up, but unlike Cetaphil, it doesn’t have any SLS or parabens. It does have a little tingle when you put it on, so if you have super-super-sensitive skin, that’s something you might want to know. I’ve been using it for a few months, and it does the job nicely: it gets the skin clean but without stripping your skin of its natural moisture.
My skin is also peskily oily and acne-prone, in addition to being sensitive, which means moisturizer can be a minefield. To be honest, I’m always in search of a good moisturizer with sunscreen for daytime. Right now what works is Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15, but I’m not keen on the fragrance — but other recommendations have made my skin feel too greasy.
At night, though, I’ve long loved Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream. I’ve been using it for years — it’s a retinol-ish kind of product, which can wreak havoc on sensitive skin if you don’t work up to it. You start with a little at a time, every other night, and then work up to a pea-sized amount every night. But once you do, it’s brilliant.
Extra things: One thing I’ve come to love is a nice rosewater facial spritz — I’m not sure if it works, but it feels glamorous. Right now I like Boots Botanics Organic Rosewater Toning Spritz — it has a lovely smell. I also use that Olay Pro-X cleansing brush every so often, and do a steam in the wet sauna at the gym every few weeks. I used to do more masks and such, but I cut them out because of time — and my skin hasn’t really missed them, to be honest.
Everyone Tells You To Drink Water For Good Skin, And I’m Going To Do It, Too
The other successful skincare hack for me was a big up in my water-drinking habit. Again, it was pregnancy-related. I had a tiny scare when I went in for a routine check-up at my OB-GYN, where they basically made me go to the hospital for slight dehydration. I was hooked up to an IV, which ran me through with fluids. Then I was sent me home hours later with strict instructions to drink TONS of water. I usually drink 6-8 8-oz glasses a day, but they wanted me to up that even more.
So I did — basically, for the rest of the pregnancy, I carried a giant water bottle with me that I would drink from all the time. I tried to have 3-4 glasses of water with each meal. Before I slept, I drank about 16 ounces of water. Basically, I was so freaking sick of water and going to the bathroom ALL THE TIME. (Which is something pregnant women do lots of, anyway, but it was like my new hobby or something!) Annoying as it was, though, my skin cleared up amazingly well, in likely concert with changing hormones and pretty clean eating and a change in gentler products.
Since then, I’ve tried to make sure to drink TONS of water — and for the most part, I haven’t broken out much, just an occasional pimple here or there. (Interestingly, they have a tendency to pop — har, har — up after a day where I haven’t been as diligent about water.)
So I’ll keep going with the water and the ‘minimalist ingredients’ beauty products until that approach stops working, and then embark on the semi-crazy train until I find something new that does! Because if there’s anything that life’s taught me so far, it’s that everything changes — including skin.
My good enough beauty motto
Ultimately, the gist of my beauty philosophy is not to ‘fix’ flaws like undereye circles or bags or whatever. I’m tired of hiding so-called flaws, like stretch marks or shadows or whatever. I live a real life; I’ve had real experiences. It’s natural that these get etched on our physical selves in some way, and while I can’t be quite ‘proud’ at times of these markers, I can at least be honest and brave and open and forthright and blithely unself-conscious about it.
Instead, when it comes to beauty, I embrace fun and distraction. Don’t want people to look at your tired pallor? Distract the with bright lips! Or cool cat’s eye makeup! (Which I can’t do, but if you can, please teach me!)
I’m so much more about zest than perfection. Zest to me is a good word to describe the way I want beauty and makeup and grooming to help me feel. Zest over perfection — repeat it to yourself while you put on your bright, beautiful maquillage and it might just brighten up your spirits. Which is what beauty is about, right?